CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Because of a veto from Gov. Jim Justice, physician assistants in West Virginia will continue to be required to take a recertification exam every 10 years but that’s not a bad thing, according to the leader of a national organization.
Mary Warner, a PA from Boston, is the chairperson of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), she told MetroNews Tuesday physician assistants have a responsibility to maintain core medical knowledge.
“We change specialties and in that what the recertification exam is intended to do is capture the core knowledge that one needs no matter what specialty they are in,” Warner said.
In his veto message of the bill (SB 347), Gov. Justice said the lack of recertification could weaken the profession.
“The unfortunate effect of this bill is that it weakens existing professional safeguards governing the medical knowledge and skills of physician assistants that have been serving the public interest for years,” Justice said. “Even as it grants greater autonomy to physician assistants.”
Currently physician assistants are recertified every two years with the recertification exam required every 10 years. The exam currently costs about $350.00. At the end of 2016 there were 954 certified PAs in West Virginia.
Some of those in favor of the bill maintain the NCCPA worked against it because the organization stands to lose as much as $650,000 a year in test revenue in West Virginia but Warner said the money had nothing to do with it.
“If you have adequate core medical knowledge you’ll provide better care–that’s the bottom line,” Warner said.
Research shows physician assistants change specialties at least three times. Only 15 percent do not change, Warner said.
“Say your specialty was dermatology and you saw someone who came in and you were looking at their skin and they had chest pains does that mean that you would stop what you were doing and call 911? And if they stopped breathing you would do CPR? Of course you would. So there’s some core knowledge that everyone needs to have,” Warner said.
Warner did not rule out a possible change in the future in how PAs are tested.
“We haven’t identified good ways to assess people’s knowledge in any other way other than an exam. I can tell you NCCPA is working on that and we’re trying to come up with other ways,” Warner said.
Senator Tom Takubo (R-Kanawha) expressed disappointment in the governor’s veto. He said Justice did not reach out to him about the bill.
West Virginia Association of PAs (WVAPA) President Rafael Rodighiero, PA-C, issued the following statement concerning the veto:
“West Virginia’s 1,200 PAs are calling on Governor Justice to withdraw his veto and to add this pro-patient bill to the special session agenda in order for it to be reconsidered and reapproved by the legislature.”
“The bill the governor vetoed wouldn’t weaken professional safeguards. PAs, like many medical professionals, maintain their skills and knowledge through continuing education. Recertification testing has never been shown to improve the quality of care or patient safety.”
“This bill initially passed with unanimous support in the legislature for good reason. It would increase access to health care for thousands of West Virginians who need and deserve it, especially those in under-served parts of the state.”
“Our profession’s testing organization—NCCPA—hired a lobbyist to insert a self-interested provision into the original bill. The provision would help NCCPA financially, but it wouldn’t benefit West Virginians. The provision should be rejected.”